Easily confused words

See, Look, and Watch

English has many words with similar meanings. In some languages, one word has multiple meanings. Here is a basic breakdown of what these words mean:

see = to open one’s eyes

When your eyes are open, you can see if there is light. If your eyes are closed or there is no light, you cannot see.

To see can also mean to understand. People often say, “I see” instead of “I understand.”

To see is automatic. It is something we do with no effort.

To look is to focus your eyes on something.

Look at the picture.

I know you are listening if you look at me while I am speaking.

To watch is to look at and wait for an action to happen.

People usually use “watch” before “tv,” “a movie,” or a sporting event, but sometime “watch” can mean you are looking at something while you wait for something to happen that is very slow.

“We watched the turtle slowly come out of its shell.”

To watch can also mean to take care of someone for a short time.

“His grandmother watched him while his parents were away.”

Easily Confused Words by Non-Native English Speakers: Most and Almost

Most/Most of

Almost all/Almost every/Almost none

Most + plural noun

Most people

Most Americans

Most cars

Most of + a particular group

Most of the people in this building are under the age of 50.

Most of the Americans who live in Indiana are familiar with the Indy 500.

Most of the cars that are made in the United States are manufactured in the Midwest.

A common mistake I often hear is the use of “almost” in place of “most.”

INCORRECT: Almost people have brown eyes.

CORRECT: Most people have brown eyes.

INCORRECT: Almost Americans like to drive.

CORRECT: Most Americans like to drive.


Almost all + plural noun

Almost every + singular noun

Almost none + of + particular group

Almost no + plural noun

INCORRECT: Almost sidewalks are made of concrete.

CORRECT: Almost all sidewalks are made of concrete.

INCORRECT: Almost none of the sidewalks are made of asphalt.

CORRECT: Almost every sidewalk here is made of concrete.

INCORRECT: Almost nothing sidewalk here is made of asphalt.

CORRECT: Almost no sidewalks here are made of asphalt.

Say Something and Tell Someone

Say something.

Tell someone.

A common error I hear is misuse of the words, “say,” “tell,” “said,” and “told.” To say something is to speak words. We can say something to another person. We can say something to ourselves to help us remember something. The past tense of “say” is “said.” In sentences, “say” and “said” should not have a pronoun or proper noun like a name of a person in after them. For example, it is incorrect to use “say” like this:

INCORRECT: He said me he is going to check the status of the project.

CORRECT: He told me he was going to check the status of the project.

INCORRECT: She said me she was sick yesterday.

CORRECT: She told me she had been sick yesterday.

Notice that when we report what someone told us, the verb becomes a past tense verb. He is going to check the status (now or soon), but we change “is going to” to “was going to.” This is because it is not direct speech, but reported speech. The original speaker is not saying the words. We are reporting what the person said. Past tense becomes past perfect.

When using the word “tell” or “told,” we use a pronoun or a proper noun (a name) after the word. We tell someone something.

The pattern is (Subject + tell/told + someone + independent clause)

Example: He told me he was going to back to Japan later this year.

The independent clause is “…he was going back to Japan later this year” because it expresses an entire idea with a subject and verb.

In short, remember this:

Say something.

Tell someone.